A South African ‘Ghost’ in Vodafone’s ‘Firsts’ Campaign

South African musician, Spoek Mathambo, is set for the wider world stage after being chosen by global telecoms giant, Vodafone, to feature among the first three in the company’s new campaign titled “Firsts”.

Vodafone, is the parent company of South Africa’s largest mobile network operator Vodacom. The London Stock Exchange listed Vodafone has more than 400 million customers across 30 countries. The London connection is important where the Spoek Mathambo hook is concerned.

Vodafone’s Firsts campaign appears to have been designed to celebrate pioneering social development activity in more or less the same tone adopted by Samsung in ushering in GALAXY Note 3 and GALAXY Gear in 2013. Whereas Samsung’s “Design Your Life” campaign launched with superstars, footballing supremo Lionel Messi and pop star Lorde, Vodafone seems to be veering more towards the “ordinary people doing extraordinary things” theme.

Vodafone’s three launching characters, Spoek Mathambo, Olympic boxing medalist Mary Kom from India and British surfer Tom Lowe, are not your over-the-top celebrities, at least not for us, the aged. Their stories for this campaign are also close to reality.

For his part Spoek Mathambo says “It has been a long-term ambition of mine to work with talented and inspiring musicians to unite South African cultures through music. Vodafone technology and the Vodacom network enabled me to upload and share audio samples so we could work quickly and stay connected with my team in the studio and musicians in the communities for true collaboration.”

A mini search wanting to understand who is Spoek Mathambo, returns an interesting mix titled ‘Township Tech’. Sample music on the website, spoekmathambo.co.za, suggest a mix of London underground beats, Afro-jazz and township house. This Cape Town dude, Spoek Mathambo, is apparently biggish in London. It remains a mystery how he has escaped mainstream media glare. Judging  by his name, Spoek Mathambo is a student of mystery. But then we divert!

Spoek Mathambo has embarked on journey, crisscrossing South Africa to collect different musical beats. His journey around the country, says Vodacom, saw him meeting and playing music with three ‘distinctly different communities’ to produce one unified piece of music. Vodafone said it is helping the musician achieve his dream of creating his first recording using collected audio samples from different cultural groups across South Africa.

And then, comes the essence of the campaign: “Mathambo uploaded his musical collaborations on to the Vodafone Cloud. He then used the Vodacom network to connect to the cloud service and to contact his colleagues who were mixing the track back in his studio in Cape Town.”

Vodafone said “Firsts is about inspiring people – no matter their age or where they come from – to do something amazing for the first time using mobile technology.”

Barbara Haase, Vodafone Group Brand Director said “Vodafone Firsts is about personal innovation and inspiring people to think in a new way. Mobile technology has changed so much about our lives in a relatively short time frame, from being able to plan a journey in seconds to helping people achieve their ambitions.”

On the part of Mary Kom Vodafone said when it asked the champion boxer what she wanted to do for the first time, she said she wanted to help women across India learn to defend themselves. In our view, as ujuh.co.za, the company is threading on thin ice in this narration. The line comes across as a cheap take on what is a highly complex cultural matter. Coming from a London based company, we think that this narration will soon attract controversy. It is plain silly to even allude that Indian gender politics can somehow be addressed via some flimsy “mental and physical skills” and “self-confidence” course.

Vodafone said “Using mobile technology and connecting Kom with the right people, Vodafone is helping to make the 30-year-old Olympian’s ambition a reality. Vodafone is working with Kom to teach young women the mental and physical skills needed to improve their self-confidence and to defend themselves.”

Vodafone said it worked with Kom to build and run a women-only boxing and self-defence camp in her native Manipur. “A film of Kom’s inspirational journey was created, which can be viewed at www.firsts.com and will be part of a self-defence smartphone app currently under development. For women in India without smartphones, Vodafone is helping Kom create a free SMS service, which will provide women across India with access to security and self-defence tips, a nationwide forum and women’s helpline numbers.”

On Lowe the company said “Within days, record-breaking British surfer Tom Lowe will use mobile technology to track down one of the world’s most dangerous waves, the Todos Santos wave at the northern tip of Baja California, Mexico, and also to help him to stay in touch with his family back home in Cornwall in the UK. Vodafone will help the 30-year-old use a global ocean forecasting system on his smartphone to help him locate the wave before jumping on to his surfboard and attempting to become the first European to ride it.  Lowe will travel by plane, car, boat, foot and surfboard to reach Todos Santos.”

The company said these are just a few of the Vodafone Firsts that will be made a reality for people around the world as part of the global programme.


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